Writer Christopher Hitchens is dead, a controversialist whose love of war was only less than his militant atheism. Within days, Italian scientists claimed to have discovered a method of replicating the Shroud of Turin that needed Divine intervention. One could not make these things up.

Hitchens’ friend, the former scientist turned full-time anti-God activist Richard Dawkins, celebrated the writer’s bravery in the face of the quite inevitable: “Every day of his declining life he demonstrated the falsehood of that most squalid of Christian lies: that there are no atheists in foxholes.” Other obituarists noted that the writer left behind no books of lasting value amid a large legacy of lucrative periodical ephemera.

Indeed the glib, angry and volatile Hitchens was child of his age in media, where writers who take the cheapest and most prosaic shots are hailed by the Chattering Classes as daring, innovative, and (their favoured word) anarchic.

Trashing Ronald Reagan, Muslims and Mother Theresa, to such an audience, was shooting fish in a barrel. Real iconoclasm would have challenged the Global Warming orthodoxy or been anti-war throughout the past decade. Call it coincidence, but Hitchens took his “bravest” stands on positions guaranteed popularity among the elites and assured of fat fees from publishers hot for crowd-pulling controversy.

He sounded quite unpleasant. Writing on Hitchens in Canada’s National Post, Father Raymond J. de Souza observes, (presumably calling David Frum “estimable” because he is a fellow Canadian, which is only a venial sin):

“The estimable David Frum wrote that, ‘If moral clarity means hating cruelty and oppression, then Christopher Hitchens was above all things a man of moral clarity.’

Clarity he had. But hating cruelty? He was himself both hateful and cruel. Upon Bob Hope’s death, Hitchens wrote that he was a “fool, and nearly a clown.” When Ronald Reagan died, Hitchens called him a “stupid lizard,” “dumb as a stump” and “an obvious phony and loon.” On Mother Teresa: “The woman was a fanatic and a fundamentalist and a fraud, and millions of people are much worse off because of her life, and it’s a shame there is no hell for your bitch to go to.”

Pretty nasty, but no matter what Hitchens may have felt, this is stage-craft in the modern media age: take a position shared by the denizens of cocktail-parties and talk-shows to which you wish to be invited, go overboard with vituperation, then cash in big time. I am informed that Miss Ann Coulter and others have done the same successfully on the political Right.

Father de Souza concedes that, “Professionally, only his campaign against the mendacity of the Clintons was courageous,” but one wonders. President Bubba’s trailer-park buncombe was already an international joke when Hitchens repeated it for the benefit of the elites.

The priest added that after Hitchens wished Mother Theresa to an everlasting torment that he thought did not exist:

“The sadness is that there is a hell for Hitch to go to. He was granted a long farewell, with the opportunity for reconsiderations and reconciliations with those he hated and those he hurt. He declined to take advantage of it. Mother Teresa is fine, and no doubt prays for her enemies, including that Hitchens would be delivered both from hell and the nihilistic oblivion, which he thought awaited him.”

As Dawkins scribbled for the penny-dreadfuls and Salman Rushdie appropriately “tweeted” his grief to the electronic cosmos, Italian scientists studying the Shroud of Turin conceded, “that the exact shade, texture and depth of the imprints on the cloth could only be produced with the aid of ultraviolet lasers – technology that was clearly not available in medieval times.”

The Telegraph reports that:

“The scientists set out to “identify the physical and chemical processes capable of generating a colour similar to that of the image on the Shroud.” They concluded that the exact shade, texture and depth of the imprints on the cloth could only be produced with the aid of ultraviolet lasers – technology that was clearly not available in medieval times.

The scientists used extremely brief pulses of ultraviolet light to replicate the kind of marks found on the burial cloth. They concluded that the iconic image of the bearded man must therefore have been created by “some form of electromagnetic energy (such as a flash of light at short wavelength).” Although they stopped short of offering a non-scientific explanation for the phenomenon, their findings will be embraced by those who believe that the marks on the shroud were miraculously created at the moment of Christ’s Resurrection.”

So, in a week in which atheists trumpeted the victory of scientists over God, real scientists uncover what seems to be inexplicable except as the handiwork of the Divine.

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Published: Dec 21, 2011
Stephen Masty (1954-2015) was a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative. He was a journalist, a development expert, and a speechwriter for three US presidents, British royalty and heads of government in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. He spent most of his adulthood working in South Asia including Afghanistan, and he was a writer, poet and artist in Kathmandu.
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4 replies to this post
  1. So perfectly against the grain. I have marveled over the last few days at the outpouring of semi-or pseudo-affection for one of the great opponents of everything we should stand for. And I don't mean on the Left, but rather from the Good Guys!

  2. A few weeks before Hitchens died, I read an essay he wrote about the King James Version of the Bible. It was in many ways a more eloquent defense of that document than I hear from many practicing Christians. He was a pamphleteer, but I felt better off for having read him.

  3. Hitchens stance against Islamic fundamentalism and jihadism made him hated on the Left nearly as much as Masty seems to hate him from the Christian Right. This article would have been far better written had its author an ounce of the Christian charity evinced by a woman he clearly admires, Mother Teresa. Despite his deficits of charity and, in some cases, moral sense, deficits to which, I have read, we are all prone, Hitchens deserves a more nuanced reading than one finds here.

    • Hitchcens was very clever. He had a wonderful set of pipes and could have been successful actor. However,the assertion above that there was anything nuanced about him stands in stark contrast to the fact that he respondned to Mother Teres’a revelation of periods of spiritual isolation with the charge that those phenomena, common in the holiest of saints, proved that she was “a transparent fraud.” The very title of his book about her proves that he was bereft of any sense of respect of decency, that he was a mere sensationalist and thereofoe a charlatan. And then he surpassed his record for indecency by revealing to the world a a sexual realtionship he had indulged in with another man. But none of that is more serious than the fact that he certaily pushed people with doubts about thier faith over the edge into nihilism by providing them specious arguments that were born of his own traumas. Perapas a mitigating factor in that might be how traumatized he must have been at the suicide of his mother and her lover. So, there but for the grace of God, as they say. May Ggod have mercy on his soul. We can be assured that Mother Teresa is praying for him now. I must point out that I am not judging the state of the man’s soul, and for all I know if I every amke to Heaven myself I might meet him there, where I can enjoy hearing him read from Holy Writ with that God-given voice.

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